Doctoral programmes leading to DFAs are of equivalent level to a PhD, with the same requirement to demonstrate new knowledge, but typically contain a practical component and a more structured programme of learning than a PhD. DFA programmes are offered by universities including University of Hertfordshire and University of East London.
The honorary degree is typically conferred to honor the recipient who has made a significant contribution to society in the arts. Notable individuals who have been conferred the honor include Zamri Zainuddin from Malaysia, Michelle Burton, Frank Stella, Richard Serra, Stephen Colbert, Carmen De Lavallade, Anna Deavere Smith, Jacques d'Amboise, Bill Pullman, Abelardo Morell, Twyla Tharp, Kanye West, Gordon Parks, Jack Nicholson, and Meryl Streep 
At Yale University, the DFA is an earned degree conferred on students who hold a Master of Fine Arts degree in dramaturgy and dramatic criticism from the Yale School of Drama, and who have "completed MFA qualifying comprehensive examinations, and have written a dissertation of distinction whose subject has been approved by the DFA committee" of faculty.
In 2016 ELIA (European League of the Institutes of the Arts) launched The Florence Principles on the Doctorate in the Arts. The Florence Principles relating to the Salzburg Principles and the Salzburg Recommendations of EUA (European University Association) name seven points of attention to specify the Doctorate / Ph.D. in the Arts compared to a scientific doctorate / Ph.D. The Florence Principles have been endorsed and are supported also by AEC, CILECT, CUMULUS and SAR.
- Doctor of Arts (D.A.) – sometimes an honorary and sometimes an earned degree
- Doctor of Humane Letters (D.H.L.) – typically an honorary degree
- Doctor of Music (D.Mus., D.M. or Mus.D.) – sometimes an honorary and sometimes an earned degree
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) – typically an earned degree
- "Frank Stella to Receive Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts - BU Today - Boston University".
- Williams College – Commencement – Honorary Degree Citation 2008[permanent dead link]
- "Top 10 Commencement Speeches". 16 May 2009 – via www.time.com.
- "The Juilliard Journal Online".
- "National Dance Institute". Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
- "404 - Page Not Found - Alfred University". www.alfred.edu.
- "Artists - James Hyman: Fine Art and Photographs". www.jameshymanphotography.com.
- "Facts & Figures". Princeton University.
- Sieczkowski, Cavan (11 May 2015). "Kanye West Receives Honorary Doctorate From School Of The Art Institute Of Chicago" – via Huff Post.
- Honorary Degrees Awarded by Princeton Archived 2016-02-07 at the Wayback Machine
- "Some Wisdom from Jack... and Binder!" – BlogDailyHerald. June 3, 2011.
- "30 celebrities who received doctorate degrees without ever stepping foot in class".
- Yale School of Drama Archived May 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- "THE 'FLORENCE PRINCIPLES' ON THE DOCTORATE IN THE ARTS" (PDF). www.elia-artschools.org.